It’s time once again for predictions on who will win the 2015 RallyCross National Championship.
The RallyCross National Championship, to be held August 7-9, has moved east down I-80 from Nebraska to Indianola, IA for the 2015 event. This will be the first RallyCross National Championship event held in Iowa and with 18 acres of rolling hills covered by fresh cut grass there will be plenty of room for racing. The location is used as a temporary parking lot during the annual balloon fest. The weight of the parked cars has packed the silty clay soil over the years to create a very firm base for racing. With the move of the Championship to late summer this year and new location, the conditions should be significantly different than last year.
The modified cars will take the course first helping to quickly remove the top layer of grass and exposed the firm base. If the course is dry or slightly moist it will be extremely fast with little rutting. If it rains the rolling hills will create significantly different traction conditions between the tops and the bottoms making it challenging for all the competitors.
As of the writing of this article 94 of the expected 120 competitors have signed up for the event and the predictions below are based on those preregistered drivers. Many of the previous year’s fastest competitors are yet to join in the fray and if they do it could totally shake up the classes.
Stock Front Wheel Drive
Chang Ho Kim
Last year’s winner in Stock Front has moved to Prepared Front and last year’s second place is not currently registered leaving the class open for a new SF Champion to rise to the top. Joseph Hanna (2001 Nissan Sentra) won a National Challenge in class and looks to be coming on strong in local events. Joseph has the speed and talent to be at the top for 2015. 2013 PF National Champion, Chang Ho Kim (1995 Honda Del Sol), has been at the top of his class swapping first with Dmitry Beliaev (2015 Ford Fiesta ST) all year. Both showed last year and earlier this season they have the speed to be top contenders and both are capable of taking the crown. Ken Heaps (2000 Ford Escort ZX2) is looking good bringing home a second at the Rocky Mountain National Challenge. Karter Bollmann (2015 Ford Fiesta ST) is also showing speed taking home a second at the Southwest National Challenge. With 15 competitors registered in SF, this is one of largest classes at the 2015 Nationals. It will take consistency and quickness to stay at the top and win Stock Front in 2015.
Stock Rear Wheel Drive
Not yet registered superstar
All six Stock Rear drivers at the 2014 RallyCross Nationals have not yet registered for 2015 leaving Stock Rear wide open. Only two competitors have signed up to date and both are rookies from Georgia. Matt Davis (1999 Mazda Miata LS) and Charles Davis (1999 Mazda Miata LS) have been swapping local wins all year with Matt coming out on top at the Dixie National Challenge held in late June. With Matt and Charles sharing the same ride this will be an epic battle of driver talent to see who will come out on top. There appears to be plenty of room for additional drivers to show up and challenge the Davis’s for the win so bring out that Stock Rear RallyCross car and give these guys a run for their money.
Stock All Wheel Drive
Gonzalo San Miguel
Returning SA National Champion, Charles Wright (2006 Mitsubishi Evo), and 2014 SA runner up, ZB Lorenc (2005 Subaru Impreza), return to battle once again in 2015. ZB and Charles are both doing well in their local regions and both are looking extremely fast in 2015. At the Dixie National Challenge ZB bested Wright to take first in Stock All showing he has the speed to win. Wright may have come in second at the Dixie National Challenge but expect Charles to keep the pressure on all other competitors at this year’s event as he looks to repeat in 2015. Gonzalo San Miguel (1998 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS) is also dominating at his local events and took firsts in Stock All at the Rocky Mountain National Challenge and South Pacific National Challenge. Gonzalo should not be overlooked as a serious contender. Multi-National Champion, Jan Gerber (2003 Subaru WRX), and last year’s winner from Mod Rear, Evan Arthur (1999 Subaru), will also be vying for the top spot. Eleven entries including 10 Subarus and one Evo fill this class with only a small margin separating the top spots. A cone in this class could be the difference between taking home the hardware or watching from the crowd.
Prepared Front Wheel Drive
Dropping from 12 drivers in 2014 to only four in 2015, Prepared Front Wheel Drive is smaller in numbers but no less competitive. Last year’s PF winner Brian DeFrees is not currently registered leaving 2015 open for a new champion. Last year’s champion in Stock Front, Micah Nickleson (1999 Dodge Neon), has moved to Prepared Front and is looking strong with an overall event win at the first Ozark Mountain Regional event. Robert Seelig (1989 Honda CRX), last year’s runner up, is as strong this year as last bringing home a 1st and 3rd in National Challenges as well as local wins. Jim Rowland (1992 Nissan Sentra SE-R) is consistently fast and running at the top of his class in local events. With less than a second separating Rowland and Seelig at the 2014 National Championship and Micah being added to the mix; the top three spots could easily be interchanged with the slightest of slow runs. Greg Cheney (2014 Ford Fiesta ST) will be attending his first National Championship and could be a factor with consistent runs. With four drivers and as many manufactures represented this will be as much a battle of manufacturers as it will drivers.
Prepared Rear Wheel Drive
Of the three drivers in the 2014 National Championship Eric Adams (2013 Scion FR-S) is the only returning competitor. Eric is coming off a first place at the Rocky Mountain National Challenge and has been in the top three in each of his local events. Couple Shawn Roberts (1998 Mazda Miata) and Katie Orgler (1994 Mazda Miata) are both first time National Championship competitors. This may be Shawn’s first time at a national event but he has been dominating his region for years and has multiple regional championships to his credit. Shawn will be someone to watch as he could be the next PR champion. Katie will also be bringing her A Game for the main event. Alabama native Roger Staples (1997 Mazda Miata) is coming off a win at the Dixie National Challenge where he dominated in class. Roger is a top notch drive who will be looking to take home the title at the end of this National Championship Theresa Thao (1985 Mazda RX-7) has moved from Modified Rear to Prepared Rear for 2015. Theresa took second at the Dixie National Challenge and is looking strong for 2015. Even though there are only five competitors in this class, winning will not come easy. It will take a solid set of fast runs to become the next RallyCross Nationals Champion in Prepared Rear.
Prepared All Wheel Drive
Prepared All Wheel Drive remains one of the largest classes in 2015 at 17 entries. Last year’s winner Jake Blevins has moved on to Modified Rear leaving the championship open to this year’s challengers. Mark Hill (2006 Mitsubishi Evo) changed from a Subaru to a Mitsubishi and moved from Stock All Wheel Drive to Prepared All Wheel Drive for the 2015 season. Mark has dominated local events and is blazing fast in 2015. Max Lawson (2006 Mitsubishi Evo) also looks to have tons of speed with an overall fastest at the Rocky Mountain National Challenge and top three finishes at local events in the Modified All Wheel Drive class. 2013 National Champion and 2014 runner up, Edwin Cunill (2006 Mazda MazdaSpeed6), has been wining local events and looks to return to the top of the podium in PA with his MazdaSpeed6. Mark Macoubrie (2005 Subaru STI) returns after a fourth at the 2014 Nationals. He has been battling with Hill in Mid-Div for top spot at local events and has the speed if he can stay away from the cones. Kenneth Little (2003 WRX) is dominating the Central Florida Region and brought home an overall fastest and class win at the Dixie National Challenge. Even though this is Kenneth’s first National Championship expect him to be towards the top. Harold Denham, (2006 Mitsubishi Evo IX), Clifton Kangas (2000 Subaru Impreza RS), and longtime Nationals competitor Keith Lightfoot (1992 Plymouth Laser RS) are also looking strong in 2015. PA is absolutely packed with talent and speed for 2015. Even the smallest slip on the course could mean the difference between being on the podium and being mid-pack. There will be several changes in top spots before this one is settled.
Modified Front Wheel Drive
Modified Front Wheel Drive will be stacked again for 2015. 2013 MF National Champion, Leon Drake (1983 VW Rabbit Pickup), returns with a new ride after last year’s tumble. Leon has been doing well locally and took first in class at the Dixie National Challenge. Leon is looking very fast and is poised to return to the top in his purpose built VW pickup. Aaron Miller (1988 Honda Civic), 2014 MF runner up, also returns in 2015 to make another run at the title. Aaron was only 0.3 seconds back from the winner last year and has been finishing on the podium at local events. The 2014 MF National Champion, Kent Hamilton (1988 Honda Civic), is looking to get back to back championships and is fast as ever in the ride he won the 2014 Championship. Randy Patten (1995 Ford Escort) has been dominate in the Iowa region with overall and class wins and he will have the advantage of knowing the site. Even though Randy is a newcomer, look for Randy to be very competitive in his first National Championship. Brent Blakely (2000 Suzuki Swift) was the Southern Pacific National Challenge winner and also has local top finishes this year. Brent will be in the mix of top spots with his very light Suzuki Swift. With other first time drivers such as hot shoes Daniel Hutchinson and Jesse Lang doing well in their regions this should be an extremely competitive class for 2015. One of the mainstays of the RallyCross National Championship, Jonathan Olschewski (bright yellow 1991 Nissan Sentra SER-V), will unfortunately miss the RallyCross Nationals in 2015. Jon is known for his fast driving and great personality. Jon is one of only five drivers that had attended every RallyCross National Championship Event and would have been listed in the top five had he been able to attend.
Modified Rear Wheel Drive
The top four MR drivers in 2014 are not currently registered and with seven of the twelve 2015 MR drivers making their first appearance at a National Championship, Modified Rear will be a wild class to watch. Bee Thao (1999 Mazda Miata) returns in 2015 from a solid finish at the 2014 National Championship, 2015 local wins, and top 5 finishes at National Challenges showing he has the speed and talent to take the title. Watch for Alabama hot-shoe Nick Reynolds to make some waves in MR this year. Nick showed some seriously quick times at the Dixie National Challenge and has the skills to contend for the win. Doug Liebman (1971 VW Super Beetle) is racking up local wins and with the right conditions Doug could easily be atop the podium this year in his super cool Beetle. Dustin Kirk (1985 Toyota Corolla GT-S) is also looking strong and will be a serious contender for the crown. Jacob Blevins (1998 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS) moves from being the 2014 National Champion in PA to compete for the MR title at this year’s Championship. Jacob is still in a Subaru and has shown he has the talent to be a contender. Like most of the field in Mod Rear this year, Matthew Olson (1998 Ford Mustang 5.0) is driving for the first time at a National Event. Given his success at local events Matthew could also be a contender in 2015. With so many new faces in Modified Rear there is a good possibility a rookie could steal this class win.
Modified All Wheel Drive
W. Orion Fairman
Modified All Wheel Drive once again packs the field with talent and speed bringing 15 drivers to the 2015 National Championship. The field is dominated by Subarus with one Mitsubishi and one Mazda to battle the Subies. Brian Ballinger (2004 Subaru WRX) returns after a challenging 2014 National Championship. Brian laid down some quick times early in last year’s Championship and is well positioned to gain the title in 2015. Multi-National Champion, Warren Elliott (2006 Mitsubishi Evo), returns to defend his title and has shown time and time again that to beat him you have to do something very special. It will take a top performance to dethrone Warren. W. Orion Fairman (2000 Subaru 2.5RS) brings consistency and speed as he makes another run at the National Championship. Dan Quiet (1992 Subaru Legacy) in his motor swapped legacy finished 3rd last year by 0.2 seconds and even though he has struggled some in his local region he will bring his best for the 2015 Nationals as he also makes a run for the top spot in MA. Richard Lawrence (1991 Subaru Legacy Sport) is looking to improve on his 2014 results with local top finishes and a 4th at a National Challenge. Others such as Dillon Dunphy (1988 Mazda 323) and Christopher Almon (2002 Subaru Impreza WRX) have also shown local and National Challenge successes and are looking to place high in the standings at this year’s National Championship. Half of the field in MA are first time competitors at this year’s event which may bring some real surprises to the class.
Come August all will be known as the field sorts out the winners through fierce competition. Will it be as predicted or will a late registrar throw a wrench in the plans of the contenders? Only time will tell as this year’s National Championship unfolds. Either way, it looks like the 2015 National Championship promises once again to prove it is the premier SCCA RallyCross event of the year.
Hope to see you there.
Story by: Mark Macoubrie
Photo by: John Schellenberg